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At White House: 14 senators discuss climate-energy legislation

The White House hosted a meeting Tuesday with 14 key senators, many from coal- and oil-producing states, who oppose curbs on carbon emissions. Obama appears to be making a big push to win Senate passage of revamped climate-energy legislation.

By Staff writer / March 9, 2010

Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joseph Lieberman, who have been working on new climate-energy legislation and who met today at the White House for a discussion on the proposed bill.

Harry Hamburg/AP/File

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The fate of President Obama's plan to shift America toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels may depend on the outcome of a crucial White House meeting Tuesday with 14 key senators, many from coal- and oil-producing states, who have long opposed curbs on carbon emissions.

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Mr. Obama – often criticized for being too hands off on complex and controversial climate-energy legislation after it became stalled in the Senate last year – now appears to be making a full-court press to win the 60 votes he needs for Senate passage of revamped climate-energy legislation, several observers agree.

Sens. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina have quietly cobbled together a new plan that would broadly limit carbon emissions in just three big sectors – electric utilities, transportation, and industry. (For more about the plan, click here.)

If the president could win just a handful of additional votes for that deal, it could pave the way for a surprise victory in the Senate – and for congressional passage later this year of a comprehensive plan that would meet Obama's goal of slashing carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020, political analysts say.

But to do that will require horse trading and the wooing of senators from states that represent 25 percent of America’s coal production, 29 percent of its oil production, 13.5 percent of its natural-gas production, a quarter of its refining capacity, and just over a quarter of its carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, says Kevin Book, a partner with ClearView Energy Partners.

That’s where the Tuesday meeting comes in.

"You have six key Republicans and most of the big decisionmakers in the Senate and most of the fossil-fuels portfolio represented in person – someone that represents every affected energy sector," he says. "They are all there. If you were going to try to make a deal, this is who you would invite to dinner."

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